Friday, December 25, 2015

Catholic Committee of Appalachia Issues "People's Pastoral"

The Catholic Committee of Appalachia, a Catholic social justice organization, has issued a regional grassroots pastoral letter on the call to be a "church of the poor" and the transformative power of people's stories in the work for justice. CCA, based in Spencer, West Virginia, has released this pastoral on the 40th anniversary of its groundbreaking 1975 pastoral letter, "This Land is Home to Me," and on the 20th anniversary of its follow-up letter, "At Home in the Web of Life," both of which were signed by the Roman Catholic bishops of the region. The two previous pastoral letters are available in a single document on the organization's website.

"The Telling Takes Us Home; Taking Our Place in the Stories that Shape Us" is the result of four years of planning and listening sessions, interviews, and tours conducted throughout the region and across religious traditions. For this third letter, called a "People's Pastoral," the planning team did not seek the signatures of the region's bishops, but rather sought to lift up the authority of the people, their stories, and Earth itself as an expression of the Roman Catholic Church's teaching of the "preferential option for the poor."

Since 1970, the Catholic Committee of Appalachia, which describes itself as "a network of faith-based people raising a prophetic voice for Appalachia and her people," has been working to promote environmental and economic justice in the region. In addition to issuing the pastoral letters, CCA has worked to address local issues such as mountaintop removal, labor, private prison development, sustainable lifestyles and communities, poverty, health, clean water, racism and climate change.

CCA has also issued individual statements and resolutions on police violence, racism, mountain top removal, protecting water, and universal health care, as well as on the implementation of Laudato Si' in Appalachia. With respect to the implementation of Laudato Si', CCA challenges the region's Catholic bishops to employ an "integral ecology" and not just be focused on protecting jobs at the expense of the environment in Appalachia, expose and work to rectify the root causes of the region's poverty, unemployment and ecological destruction, move concretely away from fossil fuels, and partner with grassroots groups working on these issues.

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